Tattoo Artist Kat Von D Copyright Trial Verdict Arrives


Well, you win some, you lose some, broadly speaking.

person doing tattoo
Person drawing tattoo. Photo by Allef Vinicius

And in the ongoing struggle to define copyright’s contours in the modern, digital era, the Kat Von D tattoo case decision falls squarely in favor of artistic interpretation some might argue.

Photographers, on the other hand, might question that notion as the recreation of a Miles Davis photograph in ink format

We brought you word of the lawsuit a little while ago and noted that it was one among many cases that are helping us all understand what the line between interpretation and theft is. Some experts expected Kat Von D to lose the trial based on some previous precedents but the jury decided that this wasn’t a case of copyright infringement in three hours, Rolling Stone reports.

The tattoo in question very closely followed the depiction of Miles Davis captured in photographer Sedlik’s portrait of the artist. While the medium is vastly different and the tattoo isn’t being reproduced on an industrial scale (such as with t-shirts or other methods of infringement), that really doesn’t matter. What matters is whether or not the tattoo infringes copyright and harms Sedlik’s ability to monetize the photograph in the future. The jury said “no” to all of that but that’s not the end in the American legal system.

Sedlik’s attorneys announced an appeal which was expected and should add even another twist to this yarn. In the US legal system, generally speaking, the appeals court consists of a panel of judges – not a jury – and thus the lower court’s application of law and ultimate decision is scrutinized from a heavily technical, legal framework. Basically, it’s a whole new ballgame. We’ll be sure to update you on how things progress from here.

Any thoughts you might have on this verdict are welcome in the comments.

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About Author

Kehl is our staff photography news writer since 2017 and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here and follow him on Insta.

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